DiManno: Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore?

Some silliness going on that DiManno highlights:

“You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Person with a Vagina.”

“Man! I Feel Like a Person who Menstruates

“Oh, Pretty Person with a Cervix”

Apologies to Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain and Roy Orbison, but this appears to be where we’re heading if language radicals get their way.

And they’re getting it, tying everybody up in linguistic knots so as not to offend or get clobbered by the social media mob.

The inclusive objective is worthy.

The erasure of women is not.

“Woman” is in danger of becoming a dirty word … struck from the lexicon of officialdom, eradicated from medical vocabulary and expunged from conversation.

Which is a bitchy thing to do to half the world’s population.

It shouldn’t leave well-meaning people tongue-tied, lest they be attacked as transphobic or otherwise insensitive to the increasingly complex constructs of gender. 

“The Lancet,” the prestigious and highly influential British medical journal, put “Bodies with Vaginas” on the cover of its latest issue, referring to an article inside, entitled “Periods on Display,” a review of an exhibit about the history of menstruation at the Vagina Museum in London.

Maybe the editors, who tweeted the piece, were just looking for clickbait, with a pullquote on the cover teasing that “Historically, the anatomy and physiology of such bodies have been neglected” — this although the author had used the phrase “bodies with vaginas,” only once and “women” four times. 

A hell-storm broke out, quite rightly, with readers indignant over the wording. As one, an author of books on childbirth and women’s bodies, wrote: “You’re telling us that you’ve noticed that, for hundreds of years, you’ve neglected and overlooked women, and, then, in the same breath, you are unable to name those people you’ve been ignoring.”

The magazine’s editor-in-chief apologized hastily. 

This isn’t an argument against gender self-identification. Surely we’re well past that. It’s more about an infelicitous evolution of language, which is fundamentally about communicating clearly. Even if making the argument ends up aligning uncomfortably with reactionaries and regressives with whom I have no truck. 

In one fell swoop, “The Lancet” — remember, this is a medical publication! — reduced womanhood, biological or metaphysical, to purely anatomical parts, a gross reversal of the century-long campaign to, not only achieve equal rights, but for women to be seen as more than their biological and rampantly objectified, sexualized packaging. This is fundamental to feminism and humanism. Further, we are seeing, in, for example, legislation passed or coming down the pike in U.S. to severely restrict abortions, basically undoing Roe vs. Wade, how fragile these gains can be. 

“That Lancet” episode was not an over-woke outlier. 

The American Civil Liberties Union took detestable liberties by deliberately mauling the words of beloved and brilliant Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in marking the one-year anniversary of her death. Reaching back to comments Ginsburg made during her confirmation hearings in 1980, wherein she spoke about the right of women to obtain an abortion, the ACLU unilaterally removed “woman,” replacing it with “person.”

It came out thusly: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a (person’s) life, to (their) wellbeing and dignity …. When the government controls that decision for (people), (they are) being treated as less than a fully adult human and responsible for (their) own choices.” 

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, also subsequently issued a grovelling mea culpa, promising he’d never again drastically alter quotes in the future.

But is that really a lesson that needed to be pounded into his head? 

And still Romero tried to justify his interference by claiming that Ginsburg would have supported more inclusive language.

Maybe so. I would really like to know what she might have thought. But we don’t and can’t and it’s outrageous for anyone to mishmash the justice’s voice.

Women have abortions. Or, I suppose, in the tiniest of numbers, people born with female genitals who identify as male or fluid can terminate a pregnancy.

Women have babies. Or, in the tiniest of numbers, people born with female genitals who identify as male or fluid, can get pregnant. 

Yet in 2016, the British Medical Association recommended staff use “pregnant people,” instead of pregnant women. A British hospital now instructs staff on its maternity ward to use “birthing people,” instead of pregnant women. The Biden administration’s proposed 2022 budget substituted “birth people” for mothers. Rep. Cori Bush has used that term, while her Congressional Squad teammate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has talked of “menstruating people.”

These are women I admire but they’ve jumped the shark. 

All of this recalls the point bestselling author J.K. Rowling was trying to make, wryly, in a tweet that got her bludgeoned by the mob: “People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” 

Rowling was branded a TERF — activists do like their neologisms — meaning trans exclusionary radical feminist. As if she was hostile to the trans movement, which she assuredly is not. Some bookstores removed her work from their shelves. Were she not a gazillion-selling author, Rowling could have lost her publisher.

In Britain, where roughly 680,000 people do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, according to government figures, midwives at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals were told to start using terms such as “chest milk,” instead of breast milk. This, apparently, because some transgender men who give birth and nurse their babies were distressed at being reminded of what they were doing with those lactating female appendages. Although surely “breast” is a gender-neutral term, as both sexes have them and both can develop breast cancer. 

This is all directly a phenomenon resulting from trans activism run amok.

I get the passion for recasting language, to improve gender and LGBT equity, to minimize the “cognitive mental salience” of males. 

The movement has been spectacularly successful in the progressive West, although English isn’t as heavily gendered as, say, Italian or French. Truly, props for an undertaking that has given voice and power to a demographic historically oppressed, horribly shaped and disproportionately subjected to violence!

Merriam-Webster was the first dictionary to add gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “themself” to refer to a person whose “gender identity is non-binary.” 

But these examples go far beyond insistence on neutral pronouns, into an outer orbit of linguistics where both women, as a gender, and “woman” as a noun are being blotted out. 

There’s more than a whiff of misogyny to it. Why “woman” the no-speak word and not “man?” Why not “persons who urinate standing up” or “people who eject semen?” 

Certainly there are words — they are slurs mostly — that are no longer acceptable. “Woman” shouldn’t be one of them. 

The battleground of language has turned into a baffleground of agendas. 

I am woman and I am roaring.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/10/15/why-cant-we-say-woman-anymore.html

Malaysian mothers hail win for equality in citizenship case

Significant:

A group of Malaysian mothers won a landmark legal challenge Thursday, overturning what they described as discriminatory citizenship rules affecting women who gave birth overseas.

The rules had meant a woman with a foreign spouse who had a child abroad was barred from automatically passing on her Malaysian nationality.

Similar restrictions did not apply to men from the Southeast Asian country, who enjoy a straight path to citizenship for their offspring.

Socially conservative Malaysia was among only a handful of countries worldwide with such rules, with campaigners long complaining they were discriminatory.

But on Thursday, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled in favour of a challenge brought by six Malaysian mothers, who argued the regulations breached the constitution.

“This judgement recognises Malaysian women’s equality, and marks one step forward to a more egalitarian and just Malaysia,” said Suri Kempe, president of NGO Family Frontiers, which helped bring the case to court.

The judgement applies to all Malaysian mothers, not just the plaintiffs in the case, she said.

The lawyer for the mothers, Gurdial Singh Nijar, hailed a “momentous decision”, saying the rules had “disrupted family structures”.

There was no immediate reaction from the government, and it was not clear whether they would appeal the ruling.

Campaigners said the law had sometimes left women trapped in abusive relationships.

If they brought their children back to Malaysia, the youngsters faced obstacles in accessing public services like free education and healthcare.

Women could apply for their overseas-born children to be granted citizenship but authorities rarely agreed.

According to Family Frontiers, the home ministry received over 4,000 applications between 2013 and 2018, but only approved 142.

The government had sought to get the mothers’ challenge dismissed, insisting the rules were in line with the constitution.

But campaigners said they breached constitutional guarantees to equality before the law, and the court allowed the case to proceed.

Source: Malaysian mothers hail win for equality in citizenship case

China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births in Xinjiang

Good long and disturbing read. But given all the accounts of Chinese government repression, not all that surprising. Time for more public shaming of the Chinese government, no longer extending speaking invitations to Chinese diplomats and boycotting the 2022 Beijing winter Olympics:

When the government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials in Xinjiang. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisisfrom a declining birthrate. But in the far western region of Xinjiang, they are forcing them to have fewer, as they tighten their grip on Muslim ethnic minorities.

It is part of a vast and repressive social re-engineering campaign by a Communist Party determined to eliminate any perceived challenge to its rule, in this case, ethnic separatism. Over the past few years, the party, under its top leader, Xi Jinping, has moved aggressively to subdue Uyghurs and other Central Asian minorities in Xinjiang, putting hundreds of thousands into internment camps and prisons. The authorities have placed the region under tight surveillance, sent residents to work in factoriesand placed children in boarding schools.

By targeting Muslim women, the authorities are going even further, attempting to orchestrate a demographic shift that will affect the population for generations. Birthrates in the region have already plunged in recent years, as the use of invasive birth control procedures has risen, findings that were previously documented by a researcher, Adrian Zenz, with The Associated Press.

While the authorities have said the procedures are voluntary, interviews with more than a dozen Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim women and men from Xinjiang, as well as a review of official statistics, government notices and reports in the state-run media, depict a coercive effort by the Chinese Communist Party to control the community’s reproductive rights. The authorities pressured women to use IUDs or get sterilized. As they recuperated at home, government officials were sent to live with them to watch for signs of discontent; one woman described having to endure her minder’s groping.

If they had too many children or refused contraceptive procedures, they faced steep fines or, worse, detention in an internment camp. In the camps, the women were at risk of even more abuse. Some former detainees say they were made to take drugs that stopped their menstrual cycles. One woman said she had been raped in a camp.

To rights advocates and Western officials, the government’s repression in Xinjiang is tantamount to crimes against humanityand genocide, in large part because of the efforts to stem the population growth of Muslim minorities. The Trump administration in January was the first government to declare the crackdown a genocide, with reproductive oppression as a leading reason; the Biden administration affirmed the label in March.

Ms. Sedik’s experience, reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, helped form the basis for the decision by the United States government. “It was one of the most detailed and compelling first-person accounts we had,” said Kelley E. Currie, a former United States ambassador who was involved in the government’s discussions. “It helped to put a face on the horrifying statistics we were seeing.”

Beijing has accused its critics of pushing an anti-China agenda. 

The recent declines in the region’s birthrates, the government has said, were the result of the authorities’ fully enforcing longstanding birth restrictions. The sterilizations and contraceptive procedures, it said, freed women from backward attitudes about procreation and religion.

“Whether to have birth control or what contraceptive method they choose are completely their own wishes,” Xu Guixiang, a Xinjiang government spokesman, said at a news conference in March. “No one nor any agency shall interfere.”

To women in Xinjiang, the orders from the government were clear: They didn’t have a choice.

Last year, a community worker in Urumqi, the regional capital, where Ms. Sedik had lived, sent messages saying women between 18 and 59 had to submit to pregnancy and birth control inspections.

“If you fight with us at the door and if you refuse to cooperate with us, you will be taken to the police station,” the worker wrote, according to screenshots of the WeChat messages that Ms. Sedik shared with The Times.

“Do not gamble with your life,” one message read, “don’t even try.”

All her life, Ms. Sedik, an ethnic Uzbek, had thought of herself as a model citizen.

After she graduated from college, she married and threw herself into her work, teaching Chinese to Uyghur elementary school students. Mindful of the rules, Ms. Sedik didn’t get pregnant until she had gotten approval from her employer. She had only one child, a daughter, in 1993.

Ms. Sedik could have had two children. The rules at the time allowed ethnic minorities to have slightly bigger families than those of the majority Han Chinese ethnic group, particularly in the countryside. The government even awarded Ms. Sedik a certificate of honor for staying within the limits.

Then, in 2017, everything changed.

As the government corralled Uyghurs and Kazakhs into mass internment camps, it moved in tandem to ramp up enforcement of birth controls. Sterilization rates in Xinjiang surged by almost sixfold from 2015 to 2018, to just over 60,000 procedures, even as they plummeted around the country, according to calculations by Mr. Zenz.

The campaign in Xinjiang is at odds with a broader push by the government since 2015 to encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free IUD removals. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the country’s total new IUD insertions increased, even as use of the devices fell nationwide.

The contraception campaign appeared to work.

Birthrates in minority-dominated counties in the region plummeted from 2015 to 2018, based on Mr. Zenz’s calculations. Several of these counties have stopped publishing population data, but Mr. Zenz calculated that the birthrates in minority areas probably continued to fall in 2019 by just over 50 percent from 2018, based on figures from other counties.

The sharp drop in birthrates in the region was “shocking” and clearly in part a result of the campaign to tighten enforcement of birth control policies, said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology and expert in Chinese population policies at University of California, Irvine. But other factors could include a fall in the number of women of childbearing age, later marriages and postponed births, he said.

As the government pushes back against growing criticism, it has withheld some key statistics, including annually published county-level data on birthrates and birth control use for 2019. Other official data for the region as a whole showed a steep drop in IUD insertions and sterilizations that year, though the number of sterilizations was still mostly higher than before the campaign began.

In Beijing’s depiction, the campaign is a victory for the region’s Muslim women.

“In the process of deradicalization, some women’s minds have also been liberated,” a January report by a Xinjiang government research center read. “They have avoided the pain of being trapped by extremism and being turned into reproductive tools.”

Women like Ms. Sedik, who had obeyed the rules, were not spared. After the IUD procedure, Ms. Sedik suffered from heavy bleeding and headaches. She later had the device secretly removed, then reinserted. In 2019, she decided to be sterilized.

“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” said Ms. Sedik, who now lives in the Netherlands after fleeing China in 2019. “I lost all hope in myself.”

The penalties for not obeying the government were steep. A Han Chinese woman who violated the birth regulations would face a fine, while a Uyghur or Kazakh woman wouldface possible detention.

When Gulnar Omirzakh had her third child in 2015, officials in her northern village registered the birth. But three years later, they said she had violated birth limits and owed $2,700 in fines.

Officials said they would detain Ms. Omirzakh and her two daughters if she did not pay.

She borrowed money from her relatives. Later, she fled to Kazakhstan.

“The women of Xinjiang are in danger,” Ms. Omirzakh said in a telephone interview. “The government wants to replace our people.”

The threat of detention was real.

Three women told The Times they had met other detainees in internment camps who had been locked up for violating birth restrictions.

Dina Nurdybay, a Kazakh woman, said she helped one woman write a letter to the authorities in which she blamed herself for being ignorant and having too many children.

Such accounts are corroborated by a 137-page government document leaked last year from Karakax County, in southwestern Xinjiang, which revealed that one of the most common reasons cited for detention was violating birth planning policies.

Those who refused to terminate illegal pregnancies or pay fines would be referred to the internment camps, according to one government notice from a county in Ili, unearthed by Mr. Zenz, the researcher.

Once women disappeared into the region’s internment camps — facilities operated under secrecy — many were subjected to interrogations. For some, the ordeal was worse.

Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained in a camp in Ili Prefecture for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan. She said that on three occasions, she was taken to a dark cell where two to three masked men raped her and used electric batons to forcibly penetrate her. 

“You become their toy,” Ms. Ziyawudun said in a telephone interview from the United States, where she now lives, as she broke down sobbing. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

Gulbahar Jalilova, the third former detainee, said in an interview that she had been beaten in a camp and that a guard exposed himself during an interrogation and wanted her to perform oral sex.

The three former detainees, along with two others who spoke to The Times, also described being regularly forced to take unidentified pills or receive injections of medication that caused nausea and fatigue. Eventually, a few of them said, they stopped menstruating.

The former detainees’ accounts could not be independently verified because tight restrictions in Xinjiang make unfettered access to the camps impossible. The Chinese government has forcefully denied all allegations of abuse in the facilities.

“The sexual assault and torture cannot exist,” said Mr. Xu, the regional spokesman, at a news briefing in February.

Beijing has sought to undermine the credibility of the women who have spoken out, accusing them of lying and of poor morals, all while claiming to be a champion of women’s rights.

Even in their homes, the women did not feel safe. Uninvited Chinese Communist Party cadres would show up and had to be let in. 

The party sends out more than a million workers to regularly visit, and sometimes stay in, the homes of Muslims, as part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” To many Uyghurs, the cadres were little different from spies.

The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this included any resentment they might have felt about state-mandated contraceptive procedures.

When the party cadres came to stay in 2018, Zumret Dawut had just been forcibly sterilized.

Four Han cadres visited her in Urumqi, bringing yogurt and eggs to help with the recovery, she recalled. They were also armed with questions: Did she have any issues with the sterilization operation? Was she dissatisfied with the government’s policy?

“I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing they would send me back to the camps,” said Ms. Dawut, a mother of three. “So I just told them, ‘We are all Chinese people and we have to do what the Chinese law says.’”

But the officials’ unwelcome gaze settled also on Ms. Dawut’s 11-year-old daughter, she said. One cadre, a 19-year-old man who was assigned to watch the child, would sometimes call Ms. Dawut and suggest taking her daughter to his home. She was able to rebuff him with excuses that the child was sick, she said.

Other women reported having to fend off advances even in the company of their husbands.

Ms. Sedik, the Uzbek teacher, was still recovering from a sterilization procedure when her “relative” — her husband’s boss — showed up.

She was expected to cook, clean and entertain him even though she was in pain from the operation. Worse, he would ask to hold her hand or to kiss and hug her, she said.

Mostly, Ms. Sedik agreed to his requests, terrified that if she refused, he would tell the government that she was an extremist. She rejected him only once: when he asked to sleep with her.

It went on like this every month or so for two years — until she left the country.

“He would say, ‘Don’t you like me? Don’t you love me?’” she recalled. “‘If you refuse me, you are refusing the government.’”

“I felt so humiliated, oppressed and angry,” she said. “But there was nothing I could do.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/10/world/asia/china-xinjiang-women-births.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Khan: It’s critical to ask why, even today, some Canadian Muslim organizations have no female leaders

Another good column and series of questions by Sheema Khan:

Since its inception in 1966, the BC Muslim Association, which calls itself “the largest Muslim organization in the province representing Sunni Muslims,” has never had a woman on its executive council. The women are relegated to a “Women’s Council,” which is subordinate to the executive. The original BCMA constitution explicitly banned women from serving on the executive council. While that wording has since been removed, in practise little has changed, and female voices haven’t been given a chance to shape the governance and future of the organization.

There is no theological basis for this arrangement at the organization, which was founded by immigrants from South Asia and Fiji and holds $41-million in assets. Apparently, the (male) powers-that-be see no contradiction with this discriminatory practice and the BCMA’s stated aim of “building a healthy congregation.”

Unhappiness with this approach came to a head last summer, when the BCMA excluded women from all prayer spaces throughout the province, as it partly reopened mosques in the wake of COVID-19. Priority had been given to men.

And then came the bombshell in December, when the CBC broke the story of BCMA imam Abdur Rehman Khan, who was convicted for a 2016 sexual assault against a woman he knew through his role in the community. He was sentenced to three years in prison and placed on the registered sex offender list for 20 years. The imam was released on bail after being charged in 2017. He was later convicted at trial in January, 2020, released pending sentencing, and imprisoned in August, 2020. During this four-year period, he continued to serve as an imam of the BCMA’s Masjid-Ur-Rahmah mosque in Surrey – leading prayers, working with youth, engaging interfaith communities and officiating marriages. Last August, he resigned for “personal matters” – he was going to prison – which the BCMA said it accepted, without any inquiry or follow-up.

The BCMA says Mr. Khan passed a police background check when hired, and that the organization had not been made aware of the allegations and conviction, although some community members say they knew of the situation. If you look at BCMA’s online platforms, you would never know that one of its imams had been imprisoned for sexual assault just a few months ago. No statement whatsoever – no pledge to do better, no commitment to protect female congregants, no calls for other victims to come forward. It’s as if the crime never happened.

Congregants, on the other hand, were furious, demanding answers that never came. Activist and student Sumaiya Tufail organized a community drive-by protest in solidarity with the survivor, demanding transparency from the BCMA, protection of vulnerable congregants and an end to the all-male executive council. A special vote held in February to do away with the archaic setup that keeps the women’s role subordinate to the men’s failed by a substantial margin. The BCMA says that the current executive board anticipates that with increased awareness and engagement, the motion will pass successfully in the near future.

There should be consequences for keeping such draconian policies in place. Sunni Muslims in B.C. should make it clear that the BCMA does not represent them. Congregants should cease donating to the BCMA and instead support institutions that are more inclusive of women and more transparent. In 2019, the BCMA received $3.6-million in donations, accounting for almost half its revenue. Taking a cue from Lieutenant-Colonel Eleanor Taylor, who quit the Canadian Armed Forces in disgust after reports of alleged sexual misconduct, the BCMA’s Women’s Council should resign en masse in protest.

Schools, community associations, NGOs and interfaith groups can engage with Muslim organizations other than the BCMA. Pose tough questions – it’s not Islamophobic to ask why a Canadian Muslim charity doesn’t have any women serving on its executive council. While it may be common elsewhere, this should have no place in Canada.

Roughly 66 per cent of all Muslim charitable organizations registered with Canada Revenue Agency have an all-male board, with Quebec as the worst at 82 per cent. The BCMA, the Islamic Foundation of TorontoMasjid al-Hidayah(Port Coquitlam) and Baitul Mukarram Islamic Society (Toronto) have each had an employee charged or convicted of sexual assault; all have been governed exclusively by men between 2014 and 2018.

All of these incidents would remain hidden if it were not for courageous survivors, who not only endure the trauma of the original abuse, but face shame, blame and accusations of “making the community look bad.” They need compassion and our full support to heal. For too long, the reputation of abusive “leaders” has trumped justice for victims, leaving a trail of human wreckage. Activists working with survivors are all too aware of the tragic outcomes of Muslims abused by imams, preachers and teachers over recent decades. With their pain never addressed, many have struggled with mental-health issues, addictions, dysfunction in relationships and in some cases have even committed suicide.

This has to stop. We need real leaders – both women and men – who will address this serious issue head-on. Leaders who will make paramount the welfare of the vulnerable; who will educate communities about the trauma induced by abuse; and collaborate with agencies to help survivors with sensitivity and due care. Leaders who will hold abusers to account and live by the Islamic principle of standing up for justice – no matter who the perpetrator.

Sheema Khan is the author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-its-critical-to-ask-why-even-today-some-canadian-muslim-organizations/

Korea: Migrant women call for ‘Equal pay for equal work’

Of note:

Hundreds of female migrant workers employed at government-run facilities are suffering discrimination and unfair treatment, according to a recent survey by Hope Center with Migrant Workers, a civic group based in Seoul.

The survey results were revealed on Wednesday at a discussion session held by the Women Migrants Human Rights Center of Korea ahead of International Migrants Day which falls on Dec. 18.

About 80 percent of the 403 respondents working as interpreters, counselors and bilingual tutors stated that they have experienced discrimination such as unequal payment, limited promotion opportunities and unrecognized work experience.

“I’ve been working as an interpreter at a multicultural family support center for 13 years, during which I have never received holiday bonuses or extra pay for meal costs that are obviously provided to my Korean coworkers,” a marriage migrant was quoted as saying by the civic group. She requested anonymity.

“I don’t understand why I am paid less than my colleagues although we are given similar tasks. It’s hard to imagine that a state-run facility aimed at improving multicultural awareness openly discriminates employees by their nationality,” said another migrant woman with five years of work experience at the support center.

According to the data provided by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in October, bilingual tutors at public schools earn around 26.3 million won ($24,100) yearly, and interpreters working at multicultural support centers earn an average of 25.6 million won ― roughly 66 percent of the average annual salary of employees at the centers, which stood at 34.2 million won.

The civic group pointed out that the lack of details on wage guidelines has widened the payment gap.

The wage guidelines set by the ministry only state that interpreters and counselors should be paid “over the minimum wages,” whereas the specific manuals for Korean employees guarantee a yearly pay raise and chances for promotion based on their consecutive years of employment.

The survey also found that 91 percent of the migrant women experienced weak job security as their employment is based on temporary contracts of 10 months or one year. Also, 67 percent of the women have experienced workplace bullying such as verbal abuse and insults towards their home country.

“These issues, which have not been properly addressed for years, have turned into long-term systemic discrimination. Even the latest support measures from the gender ministry failed to reflect the realities in the workplace,” Wang Ji-yeon, head of the Migrant Women Association in Korea, told The Korea Times.

“What we need is improved job quality, not increased quantities of vacancies,” she said, regarding the ministry’s recent announcement to increase the number of interpreters in multicultural family support centers to 312 next year from the current 282.

She demanded an overhaul on the employment system; hiring qualified migrant women to full-time positions through proper recruitment procedures and providing education programs for their career development, as well as standardized wage guidelines.

“The current multicultural policies are mainly centered on family lives of migrant women, lacking support for their social activities. The government should recognize their capabilities and contributions to the country, and come up with better measures for them to be accepted as members of our society,” said Hwang Jeong-mi, a researcher at the Institute for Gender Research at Seoul National University.

Source: Migrant women call for ‘Equal pay for equal work’

Korea: Immigration not the only solution to demographic change

Interesting take, reflecting under-employment of women in Korea:

From an agrarian economy in the 1960s to now one of the strongest economic forces in Asia, Korea has evidently achieved tremendous economic growth, which not only comes with fiscal and welfare improvements but also demographic changes. The United Nations predicted that Korea’s population will peak in 2024 and decrease from then on and a 2000 UN Population Division report suggests immigration as a solution to this issue.

Yet, the rate at which Korea’s population is decreasing would require a mass immigration so large that it becomes an ineffective solution. Therefore, it has to be done at a smaller scale and coupled with other solutions that rely on Korea’s existing population.

The demographic change looming over this country ― and others ― is called demographic transition, which is the decrease in fertility and infant death rate due to improved welfare and technological development. It occurs in developed countries and results in a declining and aging population. The latter is the change in age structure to one with a greater proportion of older age groups, whereas the former is the change in the total overall population.

Immigration intended to offset the decline in the population size is called replacement migration, yet it can also address the declining working-age population. Based on the UN report, Korea has to aim for an annual net immigration of 800,000 between 2035 and 2050 to maintain the ratio of a working-age individual to retiree at 3.0. To bring in that number of people annually is close to impossible considering Korea’s past trends: 156,000 in 2018, and 32,000 in 2019.

To actualize our goal of sustainable economic growth, our solution itself should be sustainable. Therefore a more direct immigration policy is suggested. An example is Japan’s 2019 immigration policy that created two new visa status types for foreigners working in sectors experiencing labor shortages. With this solution, the country with the highest proportion of people over 65 years old was able to target specific industries that require manpower.

The proposed solution above greatly reduced the UN’s recommended annual net immigration, which means we have to look within the country and utilize existing human capital ― Korean women.

Despite having the highest tertiary education rates out of 36 OECD countries for women aged 25 to 34, Korea ranked 30th in women’s employment. An Ewha Law School professor suggests in a CNN interview that such contradicting statistics are proof that discriminatory hiring is still prevalent despite anti-discriminatory laws.

The Korean judicial system needs to address this issue with stricter consequences. The initiative to change should also come from organizations, and at all levels of management. Every individual is responsible to correct old prejudices and biases that promote sexism.

Yet, encouraging female employment means more than just hiring more women. It also means hiring them for leadership positions, and jobs that are historically perceived to be more appropriate for men ― referring to labor-intensive work.

Other potential solutions are empowering the elderly and extending the work-life of workers. It’s important to mention that this solution is not simply done by increasing the retirement age. Instead, it’s done by carrying out health-related initiatives and promoting lifelong learning.

Firstly, lifelong learning. Currently, Korea already has the Lifelong Education Act. Under this statute, the Korean government can plan programs purposed for cultivating human capital potential.

One way to do that is by providing opportunities for people to learn emerging skills, similar to what the Singapore University of Social Sciences is already doing. They’re offering credits for courses in emerging skills to their alumni. This is a potential solution because technological innovations also mean a workforce that needs to be trained in utilizing said technology. This resource should also be available to people of all ages and employment status.

Secondly, concerning health, investing in preventive countermeasures is impactful. Educating the public on ways to take care of their health will be cheaper compared to subsidizing healthcare costs due to ailments.

One supporting case is the company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) that strategically planned wellness programs for their employee’s social, mental, and physical health. Their efforts resulted in $250 million in healthcare savings. For every dollar J&J spent on wellness programs, they received a return of $2.71 between 2002 and 2008. Harvard Business Review even suggests that every dollar invested in health-risk prevention saves $6 in healthcare costs.

Korea’s working population has been decreasing due to population aging and decline. Replacement immigration has been suggested as a solution to this issue.

Yet the answer to whether or not Korea should embrace more immigration to ensure sustainable growth is not a simple yes or no. Replacement migration is one solution to this, but it shouldn’t be the only one. An issue as complex as this one needs more than just one big solution. Like a pride of lions hunting their prey, so should we address this issue, with several solutions.

Maria Natasha Lintang is a student at the State University of New York, Korea.

Source: Immigration not the only solution to demographic change

Pandemic risks companies’ diversity efforts, CPPIB CEO Mark Machin says

Of note:

The pandemic is threatening the pipeline of emerging female leaders and risks thwarting the progress Corporate Canada has made in diversity and inclusion efforts, the head of the country’s largest pension fund is warning.

The pace of change, particularly in diversifying executive teams, was already slow, said Mark Machin, president and chief executive officer of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, in an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, “you see some particularly alarming trends. … It could leave a permanent scarring and a setback for a lot of the progress that’s been made in the past,” he said.

The pandemic pushed women’s participation in the labour force down to a three-decade low, he noted; though there’s been a partial recovery in recent months, he cited recent surveys showing women are experiencing severe stress and burnout during the pandemic, with many considering quitting or reducing hours.

“It is fragile,” he said of the current situation, ahead of a gender diversity white paper that CPPIB will publish on Monday.

Female directors now account for 30 per cent of the board seats at TSX 60 index-listed companies – and just 15 per cent of the C-suite for the same group of companies, it noted.

To address that dearth, companies should set measurable targets for diversity on both boards and executive positions, Mr. Machin said. “I am a huge believer in targets. As business people, once we know what the target is, then we’ll solve for it.”

Few companies in Canada, however, have publicly stated targets: 29 per cent of companies say they have targets for women on boards, while just 7 per cent have targets for female executive officers, according to a report last month by Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.

With so few companies setting diversity targets, some say the federal government may have to step in. Last week, Senator Howard Wetston, the former chair of the Ontario Securities Commission, said Ottawa may have to require corporate boards to set targets if the provinces fail to do so. “We haven’t gone far enough and we need to do better,” he said.

Boosting diversity in leadership is also crucial to Canada’s economic recovery, Mr. Machin said, citing studies showing that businesses with diverse work forces came through the previous recession in better shape.

As long-term investors, “it’s something that matters for us,” he said. “If you have companies that have diverse senior managements and diverse boards, they’re more likely to produce better risk-adjusted returns, because they make better decisions over time. It’s not just a belief – we’ve done that analysis multiple different ways.”

CPPIB, which has a $434-billion portfolio, has stepped up efforts to improve board diversity. In 2017, it started voting against the election of the nominating committee chair if the board had zero female directors. Last year, it voted against 13 Canadian public companies with no women on the board, and another 26 companies with only one female director.

This year, it voted against directors at 10 public companies (nine of which on the S&P/TSX Composite Index had only one woman on the board; the other, not listed on the benchmark index, was a company with none). Globally, it voted against 323 companies for failing to have any women on their boards.

“Watch this space,” Mr. Machin said, when asked if the fund is going to further ramp up pressure in the coming year.

The white paper issued several recommendations to accelerate the participation of women at all corporate levels, among them, giving workers more control over their schedules and removing bias by, for example, running job descriptions through software programs to eliminate terms that may appeal more to men.

It also urged more support for child care. Furloughs and reduced hours “may turn into permanent departures if parents who lack child care are forced to put their professional ambitions on hold,” it cautioned. Businesses can address this by creating more on-site daycares, helping employees source child care and accommodating workers who can’t return to the office because their children remain at home, the report said.

The CPPIB is not the only institution urging a greater priority on child care. Bank of Nova Scotia CEO Brian Porter called on the federal government in September to “significantly” enhance supports for parents with kids in daycare, to enable more women to enter the work force. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce also recently called for child-care reforms to improve affordability and accessibility, saying the COVID-19 crisis is having a “disproportionate” economic impact on women.

In an accompanying opinion piece submitted to The Globe, Mr. Machin noted the looming challenges in the coming months, with the economy projected to shrink by 6 per cent. “We expect a recession more than twice as deep as the one following the global financial crisis in 2008,” he said. “Let’s not hobble ourselves by denying our companies the talents and wisdom of half the population.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-cppib-ceo-mark-machin-says-canada-needs-to-accelerate-the/

The startling impact of COVID-19 on immigrant women in the workforce

Good detailed analysis of disparities:

While the mantra for the COVID-19 crisis has been “let’s build back better,” it will be impossible to do so without acknowledging that this pandemic has hit demographic groups unequally. Immigrant women faced many challenges in the workforce before COVID, but this pandemic has had a way of further exacerbating existing social and economic inequities. To ensure we come out of this crisis with a more resilient economy and better institutions, it is essential that we understand the differentiated impact of the pandemic on our diverse communities and bring forth policy ingenuity to make sure workers and their families are not left behind.

The impact of the pandemic on the labour market has been profound, particularly for women. The overall gender differences in the impact of COVID-19 are partly due to school and daycare shutdowns and the crisis in our long-term care centres. Gendered norms still designate women as the ones to step up and tend to our homefront, which has compounded the daily care responsibilities of many women during the pandemic. But the closure of economic activity has also directly induced larger drops in the employment of immigrant women.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has had devastating effects on new entrants to the labour market, young adults and recently arrived immigrants. Yet among workers with more secure jobs – those aged 25 to 54 and immigrants arriving more than 10 years ago – the differentiated impact on immigrant women is startling. Employment rates for these immigrant women dropped by 12.2 percentage points between May 2019 and May 2020, according to our calculations using Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. This compared to drops of 7 percentage points for Canadian-born men and women and of 8 points for immigrant men.

Employment rates offer one view of the labour market. A falling number indicates that workers have quit or lost their jobs. Unemployment rates, on the other hand, measure the fraction of individuals who do not currently have jobs but are actively looking for work.

In the year between May 2019 and May 2020, the unemployment rate of these immigrant women dramatically increased, by around 7 percentage points. During that time, the unemployment rate of Canadian-born men and women and of immigrant men rose significantly less, approximately by 4.5 points. It is worth noting that increases in unemployment rates were even higher among recent immigrant women (9.6-point increase) but not recent immigrant men (4.3-point increase). Even more troubling is the fact that immigrant women with high levels of education were particularly disadvantaged. University-educated immigrant women experienced the largest unemployment rates, 12.6 percent in May 2020, 7.3 percentage points higher than in May 2019. In contrast, university-educated Canadian-born women experienced unemployment rates of 5 percent, only 2.7 percentage points higher than last year.

We know that workers in the service sector were more negatively impacted than in other industries. Clearly, we are travelling less, eating out less, and we shifted our purchases to online shopping instead of visiting bricks and mortar retailers. However, even within the service sector, shutdowns affected immigrant women workers differently.

To illustrate, the bars in Figure 1 show the year’s growth in unemployment (May 2019 to May 2020) across service industries for immigrant women and Canadian-born women. Unemployment rates are most pronounced in retail trade and information, culture and recreation sectors, and are quite significant in finance and insurance. In the retail sector, unemployment rates of immigrant women increased by 9 percentage points, whereas that of Canadian-born women rose only by 2.3 percentage points. To get a rough sense of the severity of the shutdown across industries, the blue dots in Figure 1 show the increase in the number of women from these sectors who report that they are unemployed. The hospitality and retail trade industries have seen the largest of such increases with 142,000 and 132,000 more women being unemployed, respectively, this year over last.

As well as realizing the differential impact of the pandemic, it is important to understand the differences in the recovery process so far. Even if preliminary, the most recent Labour Force Survey data indicates that immigrant women are still further below pre-pandemic employment levels than men and other Canadian women.

Figure 2 shows the difference in employment rates between August and February 2020 for different groups. Larger bars indicate that employment rates are still far from those seen in February, before the pandemic, with immigrant women showing the largest differentials.

The differentiated labour market impact of the pandemic on immigrant women compared to other groups, including the differences within sectors, is more likely to be related to the precariousness of their work. They tend to work in hourly jobs rather than salaried jobs and have weaker protections in their labour contracts. Many immigrant women are underemployed, working in low-skill, part-time, and high-risk occupations. This has been decades in the making.

It is particularly worrisome that education does so little to mitigate the adverse effect of the pandemic for immigrant women.

Among the longstanding challenges immigrant women face in the workforce, the lack of recognition of their foreign credentials, their lack of Canadian work experience, and their limited access to social capital and professional networks are some of the most important. Since many immigrant women are also racialized, these constraints feed into systemic biases in hiring and advancement that affect immigrant women’s careers. It is particularly worrisome that education does so little to mitigate the adverse effect of the pandemic for immigrant women. In the retail and accommodation service sector, for instance, settled immigrant women are more than twice as likely to hold bachelor and postgraduate degrees than Canadian-born workers in the sector, but during this crisis their higher levels of education did not insulate them from being more likely to lose their jobs. These trends in the recovery are worrying and require policy action to course-correct.

As much of the Canadian federal government funding to businesses and workers is winding down, we need to ask what other policy instruments can help us get out of our economic predicament, particularly with increased recognition that some of the economic activity, and the jobs associated with it, will never return. So where do we go from here?

Undoubtedly, business trends point to an acceleration of the digital economy, increased automation of tasks, rise of artificial intelligence, reshoring production in response to supply chain disruptions and increased reliance on gig workers. These plausible trends will challenge policy-makers in charting an economic recovery path and finding the right policy instruments to ensure equality of opportunities for all workers. Looking to emerging economic sectors might be part of the answer. The green economy remains under invested in and society’s normative turn in favour of climate action and sustainability means that green jobs will be needed.

The time is ripe, then, to invest in workers to take advantage of the new economy. The opportunity to direct these investments in ways that address the diversity of our communities should not be passed over. Government should increase support for projects of social value – shovel-worthy over shovel-ready projects – that make use of diversity talent and promote fairer access to employment for immigrant women and those who are racialized, whose talents are currently underutilized. Further, investment in upskilling and retraining displaced workers – those hardest hit by the pandemic – will be needed across the country. Given the large portion of immigrant and racialized women who fall into this unemployed group, training needs to be designed, tailored, and delivered to improve their employment outcome.

Canada’s social and economic well-being cannot afford to let marginalized groups repeatedly fall through the cracks. We need to find innovate ways for immigrant women, particularly those who are racialized and newcomers, to not be left behind in the post-COVID economic recovery. Otherwise, building back better will be for some and not for all.

Source: The startling impact of COVID-19 on immigrant women in the workforce

Women in Egypt thronging to social media to reveal sexual assaults, hold abusers to account

Of note:

In Cairo, secrets long suppressed have been rising to the surface — and with them hopes the country may be experiencing a feminist movement capable of challenging the culture of impunity that has long accompanied gender-based violence in Egypt.

Online testimonials over the summer by hundreds of women on social media accounts offering anonymity have led authorities to open investigations into two alleged rape cases involving young men from wealthy and influential families.

“Egypt is on fire,” said Mozn Hassan, head of the women’s rights organization Nazra for Feminist Studies. “On fire for more than three months talking about different incidents in different sections and layers [of society].”

Social media, she said, has offered Egyptian women a safe “public sphere” that lets them know they are not alone.

In July, that space led to the arrest of a former American University in Cairo (AUC) student named Ahmed Bassem Zaki, accused of raping a number of women and blackmailing them for sexual favours. A Cairo court has set Oct. 14 as a trial date for Zaki.

“We at first just wanted him to admit it, that he did these things,” said Sabah Khodir, an Egyptian writer and poet who was one of the first to post online warnings about Zaki when she started to hear about his alleged behaviour from friends.

It set off a tidal wave with another Instagram account called Assault Police, encouraging women to share any information they had on Zaki.

“Then girls kept coming forward from all over parts of the world,” Khodir said. “We realized we actually have a shot at finally getting a serial rapist and predator in jail in Egypt that has money and power.”

Source: Women in Egypt thronging to social media to reveal sexual assaults, hold abusers to account

The women of Islamic State are not demons and must be brought home

Not as clear cut as that and a bit naive given reports from some refugee camps (At a sprawling tent camp in Syria, ISIS women impose a brutal rule):

When three 15-year-old English girls from London’s Bethnal Green ran away to join Islamic State, it was front-page news. The British tabloid press had a field day, as did the more moderate papers. “It became a kind of national trauma I think because it was so shocking. They were good students and they were popular,” says Azadeh Moaveni, author of a new book about the women of IS.

Called Guest House for Young Widows, the book is a ripping yarn and has been named one of The New York Times’ top 100 books of 2019. It provides a fascinating insight into the complex realities at play for those drawn to the fight.

Bewildered by the contempt for the Bethnal Green girls – referred to as whores for the Caliphate and concubines for IS – she was inspired to cover the story when one columnist argued British police should stop looking for the girls. “Because these weren’t our girls.”

In her quest to find them, the London-based journalist headed to southern Turkey, where she met three Syrian women. “They were incredible to me, because I thought they were the last kind of women that could be drawn into this. I thought wow, these are ordinary young women who live approximate lives to me … they’re not unknowables.”

Moaveni interviewed many women about their experiences. Some wanted to support fellow Muslims; others dreamt of travel, freedom and adventure. Many living in the region had little choice but to join, to guarantee their safety, protect their families or ensure an income. Many were actively lured.

Men in IS (referred to as ISIS in the book) were promoted and paid to recruit women; Moaveni argues the organisation’s gender strategy was crucial to its success. “It recruited young women and it used those recruitment circles to get more and more young women who weren’t married and could come over and marry the fighters, and slightly older women, saying ‘Come and you can have a role in the Caliphate, whatever you’re good at, come and do it’.

“It tapped in to all of this female energy that was not being addressed. All of these female anxieties country to country,” she says. In Saudi Arabia and Iraq, women are not allowed any involvement in politics.

When their husbands were killed, the women were forced to marry another fighter, housed in the guesthouse of the book’s title until ‘‘matched’’.

In the west, Moaveni says, we tend to view everything through the lens of terrorism, which  “obscures what we’re really dealing with”. “It’s great to tackle English language as a pathway to assimilation, really good to look at institutional racism as it targets Muslims, but [looking] through an extremist lens is not helpful.”

The Syrian revolution and the invasion of Iraq, which gave rise to IS, reflect a broken architecture in the Middle East that will lead to generation after generation of chaos that groups like IS can exploit. She argues western countries are invested in long-term political instability in the Middle East. “They’re unstable, no one gets the upper hand, every 10 years the state implodes, you have to send all of your contractors and aid workers in to help rebuild.

Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni.
Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni.

“Exclusion from politics, country to country … was a big part of the draw for IS. All these terrible states that are dictatorial and terrible and they don’t govern well and whole swathes of people are excluded from politics and it impacts women in particular because if you’re a woman you really suffer doubly under a bad government because it’s a bad government and it’s patriarchal.

“This broken political map, at the level of the citizen – especially the woman citizen – is suffocating people.”

Many countries are trying to work out how to deal with the men and women – and their children – coming back from this kind of conflict. The challenges of rehabilitation are stark but there is a strong security argument for countries bringing back their own, she says. “At least you can watch them and have them under strict surveillance and you don’t have 1000 floating westerners moving between this unstable crescent … waiting to join the next generation of IS or whatever emerges.”

Many politicians around the world are against repatriation. “Who wants to be the government who brought back the jihadi people from Syria?”

For her, it’s the only course of action. “People need to know that these people who went have gone through some sort of justice process … Some sort of prosecution and public accounting of what happened would then make their return feel more acceptable.”

Moaveni says many of the IS marriages became protection marriages. “In the middle of a war zone you could get out of a guest house that was really horrible, you had someone who could protect you. The women started to see that, too. That’s something that we don’t recognise about IS – you couldn’t get out of IS.”

Source: The women of Islamic State are not demons and must be brought home